In Community We Trust
a digital event featuring new works by
Jonathan Norton, J.C. Pankratz, and Eliana Pipes
This January, the Company One Surge Lab writers bring you In Community We Trust — an evening of short plays on the theme of wellbeing and community health, explored through a lens of hope and action. Lab members Jonathan Norton, J.C. Pankratz, and Eliana Pipes were commissioned earlier this fall to write responsively on prompts related to community care in public and private spaces alike. The resulting stories — funny, incisive, and full of heart — will be presented alongside conversations with Boston-area community partners and activists, and include action steps that attendees can take to help build a Better Future together.
Join our digital watch party on Thursday, January 26 at 7pm ET to watch the plays in community and take action with us!
It’s 2023, and as we launch into this new year, we’re still carrying the challenges and losses of the last several years of us. In strenthening our collective care practices, what does “wellbeing” look like now? What are the many ways we can uplift and enrich the health of our numerous communities? What kinds of public spaces of care can we carve out for — and with — one another?
C1’s Director of New Work, Ilana Brownstein, notes that “when the questions we’re asking are this immediate, C1 looks to our Surge Lab writers for guidance and inspiration. Through a process of responsive writing, we embrace a narrative format built for immediacy, dynamism, and engagement. Each writer creates a story and a character who speaks directly to us, and takes us on a journey of discovery that connects to issues on the ground. Across the country, it’s becoming harder and harder for people to find genuinely safe spaces for connection and support. But there are individuals and organizations working towards communal wellbeing, and the stories our Surge Lab writers have generated celebrate those bright lights with hope and, most importantly, with calls to action.”
‣‣ About Surge Lab
The Company One Theatre PlayLab Circuit Surge Lab brings together established artivist-playwrights who receive mini-commissions to write responsively on themes we’re tackling in conversation with community partners and organizations. Inspired and prompted by current affairs on a local and national level, the Surge Lab imbues their plays with calls to action in partnership with local community organizations. Their plays are recorded digitally and premiere within our PlayLab and Connectivity programming.
About the Plays
Uncle Sonny’s New Lady Friend, Joanne
by Jonathan Norton
directed by Harold Steward
featuring Cliff Odle
stage managed by Liz Diamond
followed by a conversation with Kwasi Kwaa and Biplaw Rai,
Chef Partner and Managing Partner at Comfort Kitchen
An elder is put in charge of the family repast after the loss of a loved one. In his preparations for the meal and gathering, he breaks the family tradition in order for the family to heal.
In times of loss, how is food used to help us navigate grief and healing as a community?
trans people danced under mount vesuvius
by J.C. Pankratz
directed by Josh Glenn-Kayden
featuring Jupiter Lê
stage managed by Erin Lerch
followed by a conversation with B Paul,
Host Homes Peer Leader at BAGLY
After being recognized as a role model for queer & trans youth, a young elder is faced with navigating their transitions in a newly-more-hostile political environment than they recently faced.
In an increasingly dangerous & politicized landscape, what public spaces of care and safety can be forged for queer and trans people?
The Waiting Room
by Eliana Pipes
directed by Ciera-Sadé Wade
featuring Elle Borders
stage managed by Afrikah Selah
followed by a conversation with Nashira Baril,
Project Director at Neighborhood Birth Center
A woman approaches parenthood for the first time, after growing up as a translator for her refugee parents. As she reflects on the lessons learned and the impact of medical professionals whom she worked with, she wonders what will her child learn?
Dramaturgs: Ilana M Brownstein & Afrikah Selah
Produced by Afrikah Selah, C1’s National New Play Network Produer in Residence
Uncle Sonny’s New Lady Friend, Joanne
“I invite audiences to learn more about healthy eating and to identify and support BIPOC owned plant-based eateries in their communities.”
“I invite audience members to consider donating to local food banks and pantries such as the Greater Boston Food Bank, and volunteering at soup kitchens!”
“I invite audiences to share a meal with a neighbor and buy a meal for a stranger.”
“Explore your local neighborhood eateries through the lens of the ‘Three C’s’ — community, cross-cultural understanding, and collaboration. When you go out to eat, make choices that strengthen communities. Food is more than just an aesthetic experience!”
trans people danced under mount vesuvius
“Push back against the growing movement in the United States to deny trans youth and adults access to gender-affirming care. Find out what’s happening in your home state at the Movement Advancement Project (MAP) and fight for the rights of trans people to live and thrive by organizing in your community. Check out organizations like the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, the Transgender Law Center, and the ACLU for more information.”
“I invite everyone to learn about our relationship to gender, as we all have a gender journey, whether we are aware of it or not. The more we understand that we all have relationships with gender, the more we recognize that trans issues and rights are not exclusive but instead affect us all.”
“Support local mutual aid initiatives not recognized by larger spaces. Create and maintain welcoming spaces for people who identify as queer in your communities (work, school, neighborhood).”
The Waiting Room
“I invite audiences to invest in their personal health and in the health of their communities, and to learn more about the Neighborhood Birth Center, the Health Care For All’s Immigrant Health Care Access Coalition, and the African Women’s Health Center.”
“I invite audience members to learn more about the effects of female genital cutting/mutilation and support organizations such as the UN that are fighting to end FGC/M worldwide by 2030.”
“I invite audience members to learn about what policies are coming down the pipeline related to universal healthcare and women’s health in Congress. Contact your local representative and Senator to support bills like recognizing the importance of access to comprehensive, high-quality, life-affirming medical care for women of all ages and protecting health care providers and people seeking reproductive health care services, and for other purposes.”
Neighborhood Birth Center
“Follow Bay State Birth Coalition for updates on Massachusetts legislation that impacts the accessibility of community-based care for birthing people. baystatebirth.org“
Uncle Sonny’s New Lady Friend, Joanne
Jonathan Norton (he/him)
Jonathan’s work has been produced or developed by Dallas Theater Center, Jacob’s Pillow, Actors Theatre of Louisville (44th Humana Festival), National New Play Network, PlayPenn, Pyramid Theatre Company, Black and Latino Playwrights Conference, Bishop Arts Theatre Center, Kitchen Dog Theater, Soul Rep Theatre Company, Undermain Theatre, Theater Three and South Dallas Cultural Center. Jonathan’s play Mississippi Goddamn was a Finalist for the Harold and Mimi Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award and won the 2016 M. Elizabeth Osborn Award. Other awards include: Artistic Innovations Grant from the Mid-America Arts Alliance, SDCC Diaspora Performing Arts Commission, the TACA Family New Works Fund and the TACA Bowdon Family Foundation Artist Residency Fund, Jubilee Theatre’s 2019 Eastman Visionary Award, and a Dallas Historical Society Award for Creative Excellence. His play penny candy was published by Deep Vellum Publishing. Jonathan is proud to serve as the Playwright in Residence at Dallas Theater Center. www.nortonscriptworks.com
Harold Steward (they/he)
Harold Steward is a cultural strategist from Dallas, TX. He joined The Theater Offensive in Boston as the Managing Director in June of 2017 and currently serves as Executive Director & Cultural Strategist and oversees all operational and artistic functions of the organization. Harold most recently served as Manager of the South Dallas Cultural Center, a division of the City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs, which provides instruction and enrichment in the arts with an emphasis on the African contribution to world culture.
In 2009, Harold founded Fahari Arts Institute in Dallas after recognizing a gap in the landscape for local LGBTQ artists of color in Dallas. Fahari Arts Institute celebrated, displayed, and produced the work of queer artists from the African Diaspora.
Harold is a member of the Board of Directors of Theater Communications Group where he is the Co-Chair of the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee, and he is Chair of the Partnership Committee for The Board of Directors of the National Performance Network and also MASSCreative. He is also a Steering Committee member of the Black Theater Commons. Harold is also a founding member of NextGen National Arts Network and founding partner of Steward Cultural Development Group.
Steward serves as a cultural equity facilitator with Equity Quotient and an Affiliate Faculty member in the Department of Theater Studies at Emerson College where his current research interests include The Queer Trap Aesthetic in American Theatre and Identity Reclamation-The process in which oppressed individuals reclaim agency over their identity through cultural production. www.instagram.com/smook2001
Cliff Odle (he/him)
Cliff Odle is a playwright, actor and director. A native of New Jersey, he has been involved with theater around the country in places like Boston, New York, and San Diego. He has taught acting, playwriting, screenwriting, and dramatic literature courses at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, Emerson College, Wheelock College, Boston University, and Bates College. He currently is an Assistant Professor in Drama at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. He has worked with esteemed theater artists such as August Wilson, Kirsten Greenidge, Lydia Diamond, Tony Todd, Charles Brown among others. His written work includes: Lost Tempo, Our Girl in Trenton, Running the Bulls, The Petition, and Slammin’ The Bones. His acting highlights include; Narrator in Passing Strange (Boston area debut production), Henry Brown in Race, Troy Maxon in Fences, and Old Mister/Minister in The Color Purple. Plays he has directed include: Amadaus, Agnes of God, Yellowface, and The Colored Museum. He is also the proud father of two teenage troublemakers, DC and Clifford. cliffodle.com
Comfort Kitchen is a soon-to-open cafe by day, and a restaurant by night, celebrating global comfort food – the flavors and ingredients of the African diaspora connected from Asia to the Americas. Comfort Kitchen is a Black-owned, immigrant-owned, and woman-owned business. They believe that food is a vital aspect of community building, and envisions being a place that is actively engaged in the celebration of art and history of our local community.
Comfort Kitchen will soon open in the former Upham’s Corner Comfort Station, which was originally built in 1912 to support the expanding streetcar system in Boston and is listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places and as a Boston Landmark. Read more about the site’s history at historicboston.org. Uphams Corner is at a tipping point of American urban renewal. Change is inevitable, however efforts can be made to engage the community in the change process and bring new things in that respect the existing culture and history. www.
Kwasi Kwaa (he/him)
Kwasi has honed his craft in restaurants and catering for 12+ years. In 2016, he launched The Chop Bar pop-up as a way to explore global street fare. The pop-up was hosted in multiple restaurants throughout the Boston area, including Dudley Cafe in Roxbury, where Biplaw and Kwasi again crossed paths after working together prior at Hi-Rise cafe & bakery. At Comfort Kitchen, Kwasi collaborates with a talented culinary team to develop dishes that celebrate the untold stories of ingredients from the African diaspora and the spice trade. A native of Ghana, Kwasi is passionate about connecting people through the food that reminds him of home. He shares this passion with others through local cooking demonstrations and competitions.
Biplaw Rai (he/him)
A Nepali-born culinary entrepreneur and community builder, Biplaw channels his passion for food, culture, and community to create intentional, collaborative spaces that connect people from all walks of life. Biplaw fervently supports those who share his love of food as a member of the Advisory Board for Future Chefs, a nonprofit that provides teens with culinary training, and by offering management, construction, sourcing, and financial coaching to fellow entrepreneurs. He is also an accomplished public speaker, sharing his stories of immigration and advocacy to educate audiences on culture and food, how to build community spaces, and equity in the food industry. Biplaw speaks three languages: English, Nepali, and Hindi and resides in Dorchester, MA with his wife Nyacko, son Justice, and two dogs, Momo and Moxie.
trans people danced under mount vesuvius
J.C. Pankratz (they/them)
J.C. Pankratz is a proud queer, non-binary, transgender playwright and educator writing genre-defying work about gender, class, trauma, and magic. Their plays include Eat Your Young (Boston Playwrights’ Theatre), Egg Tooth (Distinguished Achievement, Jean Kennedy Smith Award), Redeemer Mine (Finalist, O’Neill Playwrights Conference), and Joyless Eye (Semi-Finalist, O’Neill Playwrights Conference; Runner-up, Jean Kennedy Smith Award). Previous collaborators include the Kitchen Dog Theater, Lily + Joan Theatre Company, Seattle Theatre Works and Theatremasters. They are the recipient of the 2021 FMM Fellowship for Works in Heightened Language from Synecdoche Works for their play Seahorse. www.jcpankratz.com
Josh Glenn-Kayden (he/him)
Josh Glenn-Kayden is a Boston based director and the Artistic Producer and Casting Director at Company One Theatre. Josh’s work centers around new plays that help us dream our culture forward and imagine ways to create a more just world together.
Josh is currently directing and developing Break, Break by Erin Lerch through a Live Arts Boston grant. Past directing projects include Muse by Sarah Wendy Burman (Wellesley College), Shrike by Erin Lerch (Fresh Ink Theatre), Wild Flowers by Tatiana Isabel Gil (Company One Better Future series), Visionary Futures: Science Fiction Theatre for Social Justice Movements (consisting of new plays by Phaedra Michelle Scott, M Sloth Levine, and Jaymes Sanchez) at UMass Amherst, Baltimore by Kirsten Greenidge (UMass Amherst), workshops of Walden by Amy Berryman and The Interrobangers by M Sloth Levine (UMass Play Lab), Greater Good by Kirsten Greenidge (A.R.T. & Company One, associate director), the world premiere of This Place/Displaced (Artists’ Theater of Boston, ArtsFuse Best Stage Productions of 2018), and Don’t Give Up the Ship by Laura Neill (Fresh Ink Theatre). Josh is also the director and co-producer of The Legion Tapes, a sci-fi podcast written by Erin Lerch.
Josh holds a BA in Drama from Tufts University and an MFA in Directing from UMass Amherst. www.joshglennkayden.com
Jupiter Lê (he/him)
Jupiter Lê is a theatre-maker, born and raised on the lands of the Massachusett people, presently known as Boston, MA. As a child of immigrants, he is a proud Vietnamese-American living in Dorchester with his family. He studies Theatre and Cultural Anthropology at Northeastern University. Recent credits: ISABEL (reading with NAATCO & Long Wharf Theatre), Interstate (East West Players), Shrike (Fresh Ink Theatre Company), Sunday Swings An Old-new Gospel (Huntington Theatre), Asian American Playwright Collective, My Body Is a Season (SpeakEasy Stage). www.instagram.com/jupiter.le
BAGLY, founded in 1980, is a youth-led, adult-supported organization committed to social justice, and creating, sustaining and advocating for programs, policies, and services for the LGBTQ+ youth community. BAGLY supports Boston’s LGBTQ+ community and beyond through extensive, interpersonal programming that offers identity-based social support groups, mental and behavioral health programs, a walk-in clinic, and positive space for queer & trans youth to be themselves. www.bagly.org
B Paul (they/them)
B Paul is a black and queer person hailing from the Empire State of New York. They moved to Boston in the Fall of 2021 for work.They sought friends and community in other queer and BIPOC people and found both when they joined the Boston Alliance of LGBTQ Youth (BAGLY). They now serve as a Host Homes Peer Leader for the organization and feel they are able to support and give back to the queer youth of the greater Boston area.
Outside of BAGLY, B has an engineering background. They currently work as a quality engineer for a software company. In this space they advocate for more equity and opportunity for queer and BIPOC people in the company.
In their free time, they enjoy community theatre (as both a spectator and an actor), traveling, and watching scary movies. They are so glad to have been introduced to Company One and are excited to be a part of their community-building.
The Waiting Room
Eliana Pipes (she/her)
Eliana Pipes is a playwright, performer and filmmaker. Her plays include DREAM HOU$E (world premiere co-production at Alliance Theater, Long Wharf Theater, and Baltimore Center Stage); Bite Me (South Coast Rep Pacific Playwrights Festival, NNPN National New Play Showcase); Unf*ckwithable (Drama League DirectorFest); Cowboy and the Moon (Dramatists Guild Foundation Fellowship, NNPN MFA Playwrights’ Workshop), Lorena: a Tabloid Epic (NYTW Dartmouth Residency, The Playwrights Realm Scratchpad Series); and Stand and Wait (The Fire This Time Festival). She’s been awarded the KCACTF Harold & Mimi Steinberg Award and Ken Ludwig Scholarship; Leah Ryan Fund Prize for Emerging Women Writers; ATC National Latine Playwright Award; Dr. Floyd Gaffney National Playwriting Prize; and is a three-time finalist status for the Eugene O’Neill National Playwriting Conference. As a filmmaker, she won the Academy Gold Fellowship for Women through the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and the inaugural WAVE Grant through Wavelength Productions support the production of her animated short film ¡Nails! which was an official selection at the Outfest LA LGBTQ+ Film Festival, the NALIP Media Summit Showcase, and Reel Sisters of the Diaspora Film Festival. She’s also a recipient of the inaugural Colin Higgins Youth Filmmaker Award through Outfest. BA Columbia University, MFA Playwriting Boston University. www.elianapipes.com
Ciera-Sadé Wade (she/her/ella)
Ciera-Sadé Wade is a multi-hyphenate in the Boston theatre scene. She graduated from Boston University with a BFA in Acting. Since graduating, Ciera-Sadé’s acting credits include For Colored Girls (BU & Praxis StageCompany); The Weird (Off the Grid Theatre Company); Top Eye Open (Madison Park Development Corporation @ Hibernian Hall); The Love of the Nightingale (Open Theatre Project); & Mary Shelley* (Nora Theatre Company). Dramaturgical credits include Splendor, FUFU & Oreos (Company One Theatre); Saturday Night/Sunday Morning (Lyric Stage Company); and Little Women (The Longwood Players). She made her directorial debut in 2019 with Stick Fly (Madison Park Development Corporation @ Hibernian Hall) and most recently served as Assistant Director/Cultural Consultant for OTP (Boston Playwrights Theatre).
Elle Borders (she/her)
Elle Borders is a Boston based Actress, Voiceover Artist, Writer and Educator. Recent credits: Cassandra/Ensemble in Common Ground Revisited (Huntington Theatre); Genesis in The Light (WAM Theatre-Special Presentation); Mr. Joy (Kitchen Theatre Company-Special Presentation); We All Fall Down (Huntington Theatre Company); Black Odyssey Boston (Front Porch Arts Collective/Underground Railway Theater-2020 Elliot Norton Award Best Ensemble); The Wiz (Lyric Stage Company); An Octoroon, We Are Proud to Present… (Company One Theatre/ArtsEmerson); World Premiere of How Soft the Lining (Bad Habit Productions); A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Othello (Actors’ Shakespeare Project). Written Works: Joy (Huntington Theatre Company). Radio/Podcasts: “Circle Round Story Time” on WBUR. Elle holds a BFA in Acting from Tisch School of the Arts at NYU. She enjoys working on pieces that blend art, activism and education. Her greatest joy in life is performing/creating with her husband Brandon G. Green.
Neighborhood Birth Center
Supporting pregnant people and families in and around Boston, this birth sanctuary will be a warm and sacred space to engage with supports throughout pregnancy, labor, and the postpartum period. Families who are seeking a safe alternative to hospitals, can birth here, supported by midwives, doulas, and family. Centered on a midwifery model of care, Neighborhood Birth Center will also provide childbirth education, parenting classes, and other supports. Providing a safe space for labor and birth, we support physiologic birth, breastfeeding, and support families through loss as well. We hope to open the space in 2023. neighborhoodbirthcenter.
Nashira Baril (she/her)
Nashira is the daughter and great-granddaughter of midwives, who birthed both of her children at home and has experienced firsthand the transformative experience and liberation of midwifery support. Nashira is the founder of Neighborhood Birth Center, the city’s first community birth center startup. With a master’s degree in Maternal and Child Health from Boston University School of Public Health and nearly 20 years of experience designing and implementing public health strategies to advance racial equity, Nashira brings a structural analysis and somatic practice to the design and implementation of public health strategies that advance justice and equity. She has worked at the Boston Public Health Commission, Harvard School of Public Health, and most recently Human Impact Partners, and she maintains a small consulting practice focused on facilitating organizational development for equity. Nashira currently lives on unceded Massa-adchu-es-et land, known as Mattapan, Boston with her husband and two kids.
Stage Managers, Dramaturgs, and Producers
Ilana M Brownstein (she/her)
Ilana M Brownstein is the Director of New Work at C1, and a parent-artist specializing in new plays, social justice, and public advocacy. She is the Founding Dramaturg at Playwrights’ Commons. Previously, she created the Playwriting Fellows program and Breaking Ground Festival at The Huntington; led the dramatic literature and dramaturgy curriculum at Boston University for 10 years; and has served as a freelance dramaturg for new play festivals, including The O’Neill, New Harmony, and the Kennedy Center among others. Dramaturgy with C1 includes works by Kirsten Greenidge, Jackie Sibblies Drury, Young Jean Lee, Aditi Kapil, Natsu Onoda Power, Lauren Yee, Mia Chung, Tarell Alvin McCraney, Josh Wilder, Kristoffer Diaz, A. Rey Pamatmat, Qui Nguyen, and Idris Goodwin. She is the senior dramaturg for the C1 PlayLab program, which has provided script and professional development to 60+ playwrights over 11 seasons. She is a member of the 2019 NAS Creative Community Fellows Cohort, artEquity’s 2017 anti-racism facilitator cohort, and holds an MFA in Dramaturgy from Yale. Ilana has been a Kilroys nominator, served on the National Advisory Board for HowlRound, and is a two-time winner of the LMDA Elliott Hayes Award for excellence in dramaturgy. imbturgy.wordpress.com
Afrikah Selah (they/them)
Afrikah Selah is a Queer, Black multi-hyphenate cultural worker based in Boston, MA, working in dramaturgy, arts criticism, and new work development. Their work centers community, identity, and dialogue, often experimenting with devising, adaptation, and ritualistic theatre processes. A third culture kid born & raised by military parents, Afrikah has grown up with the value and mission of expanding worldviews and creating change through performance art. They are dedicated to uplifting the voices and stories of communities marginalized by white supremacy, with thoughtfulness, empathy, and care. They are an alum of the BIPOC Critics Lab and the Front Porch Arts Collective’s Young Critics Program. Currently, they serve as the New Work Producer at Company One Theatre, whose mission is to build community at the intersection of art and social change.
Liz Diamond (they/them)
Liz is delighted to be once again working with Company One. This is their 1st show with C1 in 2023, and the latest Zoom reading they have been involved with. Liz is deeply passionate about new theater and grateful and excited to be once again sharing their artistry with new works.
Erin Lerch (they/them)
Erin Lerch is a Boston-area playwright and stage manager who can’t/won’t stop writing deeply queer sci-fi. They appeared on ArtsBoston’s July 2020 list of 10 Boston Playwrights You Should Know. Their most recent play, Shrike, was written and developed through Company One Theatre’s PlayLab Fellows program and with TC Squared Theatre, and received its world premiere production with Fresh Ink Theatre in February 2022. Their play Crossing Flight (first in the Legion Cycle) had its world premiere in Boston at TC Squared Theatre Company in January 2018. They are also the writer and co-producer of The Legion Tapes, a sci-fi podcast/audio drama series. As a stage manager and technician, Erin has worked with a number of Boston companies including TC Squared, ART’s Institute for Advanced Theatre Training, Emerson College, Company One, Escena Latina Teatro, and more.